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Saturday, March 24 News

Message from the Dallas Brass band: Keep on playing

Eighth-graders Brooke Laird and Nick Servas started their morning at Darien High School listening to a musical ensemble of six men play the theme from Disney's "The Incredibles."

Laird, who plays trumpet, and Servas, who plays percussion, would go to bed that night inspired.

On the morning of April 24, the eighth grade Middlesex Middle School band and the Darien High School band sat in clinics that members of the Dallas Brass taught. They learned about proper air flow, practicing and breathing techniques. What's more, they would practice the music they would later play at a concert with the Dallas Brass on the Darien High School stage.

"Anywhere we go and play a concert, we try to get a school program involved just because we feel it's really important," Juan Berrios, of the Dallas Brass, said. "Many small towns we go to may not have a chance to go to live concerts."

Servas said Berrios was one of his favorite Dallas Brass members because of how "fun" he made the music during the clinics.

"They were all moving around and just having fun with it," Servas said.

The members of Dallas Brass -- none of whom hail from Dallas or even Texas for that matter -- have a personal commitment to working with schools to encourage students to stay involved in music, but reminding them they don't need to become career musicians.

"You make it clear that it's not about making a career out of music, but having a connection with music," Berrios said. "(The students) can do it even if they don't make a career out of it."

James Carter, director of the eighth-grade band at Middlesex Middle School, said events like Thursday's are important to keep students engaged in music.

"The message today was about the power of music and how it affects our lives and just working at something and perfecting something and seeing how that translates to other things that we do in our life," Carter said.

Michael Levine, the director and trombonist, founded the Dallas Brass in 1983. Though the members have changed throughout the years, Levine remains the group's leader. The group has played with symphony orchestras, such as the New York Pops and Philly Pops, and have performed for former presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

"The better you get, the more fun you have," Levine told the crowd in the auditorium. While working with the eighth-grade band, he said, he encouraged the students to keep playing music into high school.

"We think it's important to have a connection with (the students) and they take advantage of what they have here," Berrios said. "In other countries, music isn't part of the curriculum -- it's extracurricular entirely. Here, it's co-curricular."

The group is developing the Harmony Bridge Program that encourages students to form small ensembles and give back to the community by playing at places such as nursing homes. Dallas Brass has created a library of music for the students to access and perform.

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"We're excited to bring that to Darien," Levine said. "We want to bring it to every community."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews